Reducing Energy Waste

In short, there are many ways that an IT department can reduce its power footprint without impacting customer service. The immediate benefit is a reduction in company power expenses. Now we are back to the disconnect between those who use the electricity and those who pay the bill. A connection must be created so there can be incentives for reducing costs. Without this connection, the IT staff will err on the side of caution. The current attitude is, "I have never been rewarded for reducing power but have been chewed out for a down server." Unless rewards are aligned with strategy, the IT staff may not participate in this important company cost-saving effort.


American Electrical Power (AEP) of Columbus, Ohio, is a major power producer providing 38,000 megawatts to 11 states and owns the nation's largest electricity transmission system, a nearly 39,000-mile network. In a company of this size, a lot of IT equipment is dispersed to many sites. Tracking everything and bringing it all under the company's power management program is a significant and ongoing challenge. Successful strategies include making AEP's Green IT program a performance goal across the IT organization, including departments and individuals, and promoting green initiatives. These goals were tracked and reported internally. In addition, AEP had a focus on enterprise-wide communication, including articles on AEP Now, the corporate Intranet, newsletters, and e-mails.

In 2008, AEP completed a Green PC pilot for all employees in Shared Services, which includes IT, Human Resources, and Business Logistics. To date, 2,700 PCs (86 percent) in Shared Services use the power saving mode for a savings of 544,299 kilowatt hours, or 974,295 pounds of CO2, between May 1, 2008, and October 1, 2008. From a cost perspective, at an average commercial rate, this amounts to an annual savings of $117,000. In itself, this is plenty of business justification for this effort. However, it also reduced emissions by 2,338,000 pounds of CO2, improving the air that we all breathe.

In the data center, AEP implemented VMware in the Windows server environment, thereby allowing IT to decrease the number of servers from 442 to 23. A similar conversion for Unix servers de creased the number of machines used from 170 to 75. At this point, AEP is analyzing the data. Final figures will be released with the 2009 Corporate Sustainability Report.

In addition to focusing on reducing wasted energy, AEP is conscious of downstream vendors and the ability to recycle IT purchases. Staff takes this into consideration as part of the total cost of the IT life cycle. Specifications are under consideration at this point. If the item has resale value, AEP's asset recovery group takes possession of the material. Cell phones and accessories are sent to a recycling vendor that pays AEP for materials it can resell. Other electronic items are properly recycled through Intechra LLC, which kept more than 155,000 pounds of AEP's electronic waste from landfills through a combination of remarketing and proper recycling.

Looking ahead, AEP CEO Michael Morris projects a diminishing electrical capacity in parts of the country over the next ten years, as a result of the difficulties in securing sites for new generating plants and the power lines to deliver the product to the market. These structures take a long time to construct. The challenge for the future is to work closely with communities to ensure that energy continues to be available to customers when they need it.

AEP accomplished this using a cross-functional IT department team led by the CIO and Senior Vice President, Kevin E. Walker. The team consisted of IT Directors and Managers in customer support services and IT Infrastructure.

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